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Cover
Table of Contents
Editor's Notes
Donations
Submission Guidelines
Website

Stories & Essays
'57 Chevy
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By Gary Moshimer
A Visit to India From America...
_ By Shubha Venugopal
Calista Flockhart and the MySpace Hoax
_ By Michael Frissore
Recollections and Revelations
_ By Elizabeth Harbaugh
Springtime Visits
_ By Phyllis Link
Stupendous Stew
_ By Malerie Yolen-Cohen
The Genius
_ By Ray Templeton
The Stranger Below
_ By Sam Vargo
Truant
_ By Louise Norlie
Vacation
_ By Dan Devine
Vegetarian Rage
_ By John A. Ward
What Might Pass Between Them
_ By Alexandra Leake

Poetry
A Glutton For Truth
_ By Richard Fein
A Question of Proper Form
_ By Richard Fein
Boiler Man
_ By Leland Jamieson
Horizons
_ By Davide Trame
Lioness In Miniature
_ By Grace M. Murray
Outdone
_ By Pete Lee
Real Life Elocution
_ By Richard Fein
Rewriting An Ending
_ By Rumit Pancholi
September
_ By Tim Shell
Seven Ways of Looking at a Full Moon
_ By Naiya Wright
Shalom
_ By Jeanne Hugoe-Matthews
Sideways
_ By Kristine Ong Muslim
Spirit
_ By Patrick Frank
The Empty Spaces After You
_ By Rumit Pancholi
Thesaurus
_ By Ed Higgins
Uncle Zebulon
_ By J.R. Salling

Art & Photography
Dora Calo
Robert Carter
Noah Erkes
Andrew Patsalou
Saulius
Filip Wierzbicki

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The Stranger Below
By Sam Vargo


There's a man who comes around every day at six.

He's out there, right under my apartment window, rain or shine.

I don't know his name. I don't know from where he came. All I know is he's there, ten floors below me.

I get home from work at five-twenty and get right to my avocation: watching the stranger below. At first, he was just an oddity. Over time, though, he's become my sole reason for existing like I do.

Itís become almost ritualistic as I arrive home. First, I pour myself a stiff drink of rye. Then I take my station by the window and look down. I wait for the man every day like he's my long-lost son, my future brother-in-law just come home from war or even, sometimes, yes, yes, yes, even my lover...

I think he's a terrorist. You might think this to be a crazy sort of hypothesis, but I believe this man may be some sort of Persian. He's dark skinned and though he does not wear a turban, I fear he might wear such a religious hat in his lonely times. And he carries a long suitcase or, perhaps, a briefcase of some sort - not the kind that businessmen carry home, but the type of case that would be a nice fit for a small nuclear bomb.

If it wasn't for me, nobody would watch this threatening man. Any day now, I expect a stadium to blow up, the transit system to fry like a hotdog in a microwave or my whole apartment building - all 1,001 of us here - to be tied up, beaten and shot by this man.

I began watching him while we both still had a lot of hair. I noticed little things about his espionage profession. And it wasnít the big things that gave him away. Nope. Little giveaways made his figure out there scream like he wore radioactive ties and suspenders.

For one thing, switching accomplices (i.e., the women drivers, there have been two over the years - but only two). That was his biggest giveaway. Are spies that loyal or faithful? Címon!

But there have been other little hints: like those beady black eyes he thinks nobody sees. Those eyes peer out like an armadilloís, or even worse, a ratís. And the kinetic/dial-a-framed/magical umbrellas he owns seem to shoot rays up in the air when itís raining; the twisted newspaper (which is actually some kind of dirty bomb) is omnipresent; plus, the way he talks to himself, at times, well, go figure...

I could go on and on. But we haven't much time. Or space...

The funny thing is, this man only stands on the corner of Vine Boulevard and St. Vitus Street for 10 or 15 minutes. And itís only on Monday through Friday. Then, like clockwork, some very pretty woman - usually sharp dressed to a tee - speeds around the corner and picks him up in a slick BMW. The woman, I surmise, is an espionage agent the way she drives so hastily around the corner, stops the fine German machine on a dime, then hurries off down Vine after the man gets into her black sedan.

Strangely, heís never there on weekends, but he may be traveling overseas during these times. Spies go all sorts of different places - even other countries - I've found by reading spy books and by carting myself to spy movies. I hate spy books and spy movies, actually, but I force myself to watch them so I understand more about the stranger below.

I often wonder where they're off to - if they fly to the Middle East on weekends and partake in terrorist lessons there. Do they travel to Europe and try to infiltrate Sinn Fťin, the Skinheads, Neo Nazis or the administration at Oxford University? They definitely look to be part of that IRA/European/big-bad-mean thing. I know that luck would have it that those two are either Catholic or Protestant, being that this is the United States and most of us are dipped in the holy waters of these lakes upon our births.

If you're impressed with my logic, so am I!

I see them sometimes flying to Dublin, or Stockholm, or Amsterdam. For all we know, he might be the real Vlas Dracula and his fine looking, witchy companion, Mrs. Fangs!

I see them meeting with despicable under-the-belly, underworld figures over a good glass of warm absinthe. Like all spies do, they'll eat nice little hors devours of monkey brain cobbler and refried jumbo jellyfish. That's a bit overly amplified, but the truth may be much stranger, you know. If curiosity killed the cat, it also fed the animal. I read a lot of intrigue and adventure novels. Spies eat weird stuff. Guys like me have to watch them. I am a forensic accountant with the hobby of looking for top-ranking espionage agents. I know that my blue suit goes with my black shoes, my brown suit goes with my brown or tans.

I like to drink rye at night because it can be a dry drink.

I've been watching this man for ten years now. You can say I've grown old with him. When I first noticed his strange comings and goings, he had a full head of hair and it was stringy, icky and long, like a hippy hairdo. Now he's nearly bald and he wears his hair short. But, strange to say, he's had two separate drivers and three different cars over the decade. Like me, he knows the rudiments of business dress - blue with black and brown with brown.

But the strangest part of it all is his car collection. The first woman who picked him up used to grab him in a VW. A Jetta, Golf, or some other aluminum can with wheels. Then she must have felt the heat of me watching her so much so she switched to one of those inconspicuous, crappy SUVs. The color of the thing was grey (hey, you talk about chameleon/unassuming coloring). Now, the hippy dippy blonde lady has been axed (probably in Mexico, like Trotsky) and in her place is this long-legged, sharp brunette with cold, calculating looks and enough impatient hostility to start a forest fire.

Strange? You bet it is.

I'm lucky. I have the best hobby in the world. And when it all comes down - when that man on the corner finally strikes - I'll be there.

Just wait and see...

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